Question: I was offered a promotion recently and I am now working equally alongside a manager who trained me when I moved to the company five years ago. Since I was promoted, she has become cold and distant towards me. I’ve always respected this manager and I was looking forward to working with her on a team. How can I address her attitude without undermining her?
Answer: Congratulations on getting your promotion to Manager. It’s always a wonderful feeling to be recognised for your contribution to the company.
However, it can be tarnished if you are not feeling the shared excitement from your co-workers or members of the management team. So, it can be a testing time to ensure you get all relationships back on track.
I’ve got bad news and good news – the bad news is that you can’t control how others are going to react to your promotion.
You may be surprised as to how some of the team react, but you need to be ready for this. The good news is that you can reach out to them to see what concerns they have regarding your promotion in order to build a better working relationship together.
Resentment can creep in from other employees, almost unavoidably, be they direct reports or even current managers whom you may be working alongside.
If they were already a manager based within the company, they may feel you did not deserve the promotion and perhaps that someone else should have got it over you.
Walking in their shoes is a good place to start as they probably have mixed emotions right now and could feel that you have progressed really fast since joining the organisation.
You are someone to watch in the future (high potential talent) and you are now gunning to pass them out for future promotional prospects!
They may be concerned that the directors of the company will select you to take on a large project or a chunk of their work because your skillset may suit it better.
Whatever their reason for acting this way, find out and ‘confront the elephant in the room’ to ensure you are starting off in your new role with a clean slate. You will need to have the backing and support of other managers around you as it can be a lonely journey if you are managing a new team, juggling issues with the team, trying to impress in your new role, as well as this whole other distraction.
If you sweep it under the carpet, then it will fester – so you need to bite the bullet on this issue immediately. Invite this person to join you for a coffee so you can ask them how they feel about your recent promotion.
Find out from their perspective what would make it easier for you both to work together to improve the business and develop your teams.
You are not undermining their experience but really asking for their support. It is human nature that some people will feel a little of the ‘green-eyed monster’ about an internal promotion so you need to act as natural as you have always been – the less flash you are about your success, the less envy you’ll encounter overall.
The ability to listen to their concerns, observations and suggestions is key in this situation – listening shows respect and the want to ensure you both work well together.
Encouraging this manager, other members of the management team, and all your direct reports to share any questions or concerns they may have with this change in structure can clear the air.
Being upfront by saying that “this is a change for everyone” can be awkward at the beginning but with a little time, and by putting a plan in place, everyone will start to work together in this new arrangement.
Remember that you wanted this new promotion, so you put yourself forward for it, but there are always some trade-offs when these things happen.
However, if you are true to yourself, stick to your principles, be authentic, and become a valued and trusted leader for your team, then the other managers will respect your contribution to the overall team and will welcome you into the management fold in no time.
This article was originally published in the business section of The Sunday Independent on Sunday, March 11th 2018, and can be viewed here.